Last week, my mom ended up at the hospital for an emergency choleocystectomy. True story. Her gallbladder staged a coup, and had to be ostracized. During this time, I sat at her bedside playing Yahtzee with Buddies on my Note 4. While I was doing so, I was also apparently corroborating the empirical data in a new Pew Research Center study, which shows that a third of Millennials often take out their phones "for no particular reason." Personally, I think that whether racking up Yahtzees like a boss qualifies as "no particular reason" remains to be seen. (Username JulieLMS12. Hit me up). All the same, the study is still worth noting.
The big message behind it is that Millennials — and younger Americans in general — often tend to turn to their phones simply to pass the time. In fact, as many as 13 percent of young Americans polled admitted that they use their phone as a means of avoiding people around them. Add it to the laundry list of character flaws with which Millennials are routinely pegged, right?
Here's the thing, though: While we Millennials may be more prone to toeing the line of social etiquette when it comes to cell phones (I'll have my steak with a side of social media, please), we aren't the only ones with a cellular addiction. According to the same Pew survey, a whopping 61 percent of Americans spanning the age spectrum copped to performing seemingly innocuous tasks with their cell phones during social gatherings — think checking your texts or updating your Facebook status.
And really, is that so wrong? I'm going to defer to the part of Pew's findings which points out that Millennials are actually apt to whip out their cell phones for pro-social behaviors. While this evidently falls under the umbrella of "for no particular reason," such behaviors include what I consider to be entirely productive and socially conscious interactions, like posting photos of the fam squeezed around the dinner table. Or looking up movie times. Or, you know, swiping right.
It isn't as though Millennials are onto a new concept here, either. Since the beginning of time, people have been finding ways to occupy their idle minds. So what are some of the historic alternatives? Let's explore.
1. Pondering Polygamy
When cave people weren't hunting and gathering, they didn't
have Farmville to while away the hours until another mammoth crossed their
path. Many researchers believe that people during the Stone Age were moderately
polygamous, often pondering taking on extra partners. And those naughty folks
behind Ashley Madison thought they were visionaries.
2. Boning Up On Classical Music
Forget about Pandora or Spotify. The only streaming music to lull your listless mind during the Baroque period was streaming out of the mouth of the mezzo-soprano on stage at the opera. Unlike trolling people on your Twitter feed, this was a hobby that required real effort — like leaving the house, and knowing Pachelbel from Purcell.
3. Getting An, Ahem, Pelvic Massage
During the Victoria era (1837 to 1901), women engaging
in, well, virtually any kind of behavior could be slapped with a diagnosis of "hysteria" and sent to the doctor to disengage their brains from whatever
"problematic" line of thought might be ailing them. One of the most
popular cures of distraction at the time was medical masturbation. I kid you
not. Fun fact: If the doctor got a hand cramp, a mechanical device took over
until "hysterical paroxysm" (aka the big O) was reached. Victorian pastimes
also included nipple piercing, so yeah ... good times.
Surprise! Trainspotting isn't just a film about heroin
starring Ewan McGregor, the act of staring over a DJ's shoulder to see what he's
spinning, or a book by the same name. It's a hobby IRL, you guys. Or at least,
it was. Originating in the 1800s, when mechanized rail transport systems first
appeared, trainspotting involves passing
the time by watching trains and writing down their numbers.
I for one will be sticking to reading mildly humorous Amazon reviews and beasting at online Yahtzee. Although I'll admit that if "hysterical paroxysm" is still an option, I might be inclined to give it a whirl.